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With my friend Shil getting married in Pennsylvania during a three-day Indian wedding bash, the time is right to take a family road trip across the U.S.A. I’ve been dreaming about a cross country road trip for years. Major bucket list item, here I come.

In preparation for the trip, the kiddos and I are learning about the geography and patriotic symbols of the United States, parts of a car, how to read maps (left and right, compass rose, landmarks, etc), tall tales (Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, Davy Crocket, Pecos Bill), and we’re having lessons relevant to the states through which we’ll be traveling. For example, we’ll be doing a series of lessons on Georgia O’Keeffe when we study New Mexico.

Yesterday we looked at a picture of the U.S. flag online, talked about the symbolism of the colors, discussed how every country has its own flag (and made a tie-in to the upcoming Olympics in London), talked about the numerical importance of the stars and stripes (Katie made the connection between 50 stars and 50 states), and finally, we colored our own flags.

Then we watched a short instructional video on American symbols on BrainPOP Jr.

After that, we looked at the anatomy and coloring of the Bald Eagle, and we colored our own.

Later in the afternoon, Katie completed a “Where I Live” packet from Enchanted Learning (all of my printables were from there yesterday). I loved this packet, because she had practice sentences to write for each page, i.e. “I live on the 3rd planet.” Each page went from bigger to smaller: planet to continent to country to state to a page where she drew her own house. Much of that was review to her, except for the part about continents, which we haven’t really discussed. She also is working her way through identifying states as states, and not countries. It can be confusing, given how much of our globe looks.

She has been using her LeapFrog Tag U.S.A. map (we also own their world map). We use this map together sometimes, but the beauty of it is how intuitive it is for her to use on her own. I love the LeapFrog Tag system generally, but the maps are especially useful teaching tools. She loves her maps, which include games, music from different regions, and information about geographic points of interest. She surprised me today by already knowing how to read the directions on a compass rose. When we were studying Arizona, I posed the question (after defining the word “borders” for another question on our printable), “What state borders Arizona to the north?” I did not expect her to know; rather, I thought I would ask her the question and we’d talk it through. Instead, she consulted her map and immediately replied, “Utah!”  The Tag system, we feel, has been worth the investment—these digital natives are born to soak up all that technology has to offer.

We did focus primarily on Arizona today:

1) We watched two short videos from BrainPOP Jr.: a) desert climate and b) Pueblo Indians

2) We looked up information and examples of kachina dolls. We talked about their colors and materials, and we related them to the doll the girl sacrifices in The Legend of the Bluebonnet (one of our favorites, and one will we use when we get to our studies of Texas). We found a YouTube video (about 3 minutes) that showed two Hopi men making kachina dolls and turquoise jewelry and talking about their process.

2) We studied a close-up but simplified map of Arizona (Enchanted Learning), talked about the map legend, and read through and answered questions together based on the map.

3) Amie and Boppa then happened to join us for our art project. We used these Southwest Indian stencils and these Fun with Desert Animals stencils to paint desert designs on pottery, wooden blocks, and paper.

Eric stenciled a desert lizard on his wooden block and then painted free form on his pot, while Katie chose a kachina doll, roadrunner, and Hopi flute player for her pot.

We also experimented with sponge printing a Navajo quilt pattern stencil. Amie made a desert print on some paper with a gila monster and a jackrabbit. I played with the coyote and a Native American bird pattern. These stencils were extremely fun! In fact, I will probably bring them out several times during the unit: we used tempura paint today, but I think we can also try crayons and pencil shading. With free shipping through Amazon Prime, these stencil booklets cost about $3.00 for both. A favorite purchase.

I almost forgot: the kiddos worked on Montessori trays this morning…

Eric started with tweezing (pom pom balls in compartments into a bowl)…

Katie used a spoon to scoop rice from one bowl to another….

They switched…. Katie had a better time with this than Eric, for whom I think I need better toddler-friendly-actual-Montessori-type tweezers. He did a few, but then used a spoon to scoop the rest.

Eric did several spoonfuls of rice, but then took the initiative to complete the transfer simply by pouring one bowl into the other (very neatly, I might add). Guess he found the more elegant solution. 😉 He’s pretty adept with his spoon, anyway…

Finally, Katie has been working on her drawing this year. At the start of the year, she could not draw people.  She could add to a drawing of mine arms and legs (or eyes, or other things I asked of her—a great game to play with a little one), but she could not draw a whole person by herself. She’s been working on drawing through a variety of means, and she did this piece a couple of nights ago on an iPad app (meant for practicing drawing) with her finger. Bill took a picture of it so we’ll always have it. She has been drawing up a storm on normal paper, too. I love to see her express herself and her skills are growing.

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One of my projects this past weekend was to clean out and reorganize the kiddos’ closets, especially Eric’s. I had done a fairly thorough combing of Katie’s closet a couple of months ago, but Eric’s was in a state. One whole side of his closet was taken up with baby items such as the bassinette, the box for the Bjorn (I mean, why?), and anything else I could pile on top of those. After reorganizing and paring down, we found three bare shelves worth of space to put toys, and the kiddos have an entire play area on the right-hand side of the closet where no clothes are hanging and nothing is on the floor. They love it. They think of it as a fort. Buys me precious minutes to put away laundry and the like.

We also sorted through Katie’s clothes again. Now that winter is done, we could sort out items that will no longer fit next winter. With a bit of reorganization of her closet, too, we were able to reclaim one whole shelf, currently bare and waiting a future need.

I’ve been convinced that she hardly has enough clothing for a two week road trip through the hot and humid southern states. I am sure we’ll continue to pick up a few play clothes and last minute items, but I was cheered to discover that much of her spring/summer clothing from last year still fits. She grows so fast, but she is slender. Her winter wardrobe is always noticeably shorter, because in winter clothes pants reach the ankle and sleeves reach the wrist. It is easy to tell when these get too short. But in summer? Skirts and dresses can be shorter, and since we usually buy them a size bigger to last two seasons, she actually has quite a few pieces that still work. Whew.

We also try to be innovative:

This dress here, held by Eric, was one of Katie’s favorites last year though, miraculously, it doesn’t have any spots yet. One thing about Katie: she does not like clothes that “leave prints” or impressions in the skin after they have been on. She decided over the course of this year that she does not like anything with a rough elastic gather (she loves leggings, but those are a different kind of stretchy), especially around arm holes. Therefore, she no longer wanted to wear this dress due to the sleeves, though the length is perfect on her.

We decided to cut off the sleeves, turn under the edges and make a sleeveless dress to wear this summer.

She enjoyed wearing it today. Here, she is playing soccer again. She loves, loves soccer. We’ve been taking advantage of the late daylight to play after dinner (or today, before dinner). She has been asking me now to play on a team, and so I think I might cancel our class we signed up for next year and actually sign her up for one of the TVSA rec teams. They go as young as four. I really see a spark in her when we are playing. Could this be her passion?

Both homeschooling mamas and former English teachers at Temecula Valley High School, my friend Lauren and I have been dreaming up ways to collaborate on lessons with our kiddos. Lauren has two girls, M (turning 3 this weekend) and G (turning 2 in November), and she runs Servant’s Heart Academy in her home.

Co-teaching is truly one of life’s joys. I co-taught three periods of mixed groups of English 9s for many years with my friend, mentor, and colleague (who just won Teacher of the Year for our campus, by the way) Sandy Huth. Teaching with another teacher is invigorating, inspiring, humbling, vulnerable, beautiful, and authentic. It requires trust and inherently invites both mutual and self reflection.

For homeschooling families, co-teaching is a way to bring different types of energy to the lesson. Lauren and I agree that it is a beautiful opportunity for our kiddos to hear from another adult and to work together with other children. Whether we’re in a classroom or a home school, teachers know it is important to change the energy flow now and then to keep students (and teachers) fresh.

This past weekend, we put our heads together and came up with a “Sink or Float” lesson as a precursor to working on a liquid density project and within the context of Lauren’s water unit.

Lesson Plan (these are taken from our notes this weekend):

1) Calendar and circle time: everyone does part of the calendar, colors “W” for water, and then we can share a story: The Story About Ping. Connection to buoyancy (duck, boats, boy with the barrel). Discussion of swimming? (Connection to personal world).
2) Pass around cups filled with water and a bowl with ice. We can have each one put a piece of ice in her/his glass. Why does the ice float in the water? Brainstorm.
3) Move into the family room and show them the 3-5 min. instructional video from BrainPOP Jr. It starts out with ice in a glass, too, so the transition is fairly smooth. The video emphasizes two elements of floating: water displacement (pushing the water away, I think is how they say it), and “shape.”

4) Bring out a basket of collected items. Make predictions on a worksheet that has four columns: a) object; b) prediction, c) first test; d) second test. We will have to write in the name of the objects for them at the time. Students take turns picking an object out of the basket.
5) Move outside to the water table. Conduct the experiment and record results.
6) Use spray bottles and make water art.

Investigating the way ice floats in bowls of water. When we press down on the ice, what happens?

Watching a video from Brain Pop Jr. We air played it from the Mac. Home school technology is pretty awesome! I am obsessed with the BrainPOP Jr. site, by the way. We have our access now through River Springs, but it looks like the pricing for a homeschool program, single user for one year is $85 (multi-user for one homeschool looks like $135 if you go to subscriptions and pricing). I wish I had had access to this for our pre-K year, when Katie was age 4. Now that I have been poking around the vids, for me it would have been worth the $85. BrainPOP Jr. has 3-5 minute instructional videos on a variety of topics, plus links to online activities, crafts to go with lessons, and general lesson plans. Awesome use of tech.

Conducting our lab experiment

We filled spray bottles with colored water, and the kiddos made abstract spray art on butcher paper.

Summertime fun!

Then we played outside and fixed lunch. A happy, productive, playful morning of learning and friends!

Oh it is lovely to play together:

We charged up the radio controlled car and sent it for a spin!

Katie was laughing as Bill sent it zooming

Katie takes a turn

Eric and I also took turns driving it. We let the kiddos drive it in the house a bit, too. Eric would belly laugh every time he made it hit something—love it!

The kiddos and I also spent about an hour playing “veterinarian” this morning. Steve and Carol had sent a vet medical kit to Katie and Eric as a Christmas present a couple of years ago, and we’ve loved it. I rotate where toys are in the house periodically, and I just rotated the vet set to a prominent place on one of the play room shelves. Sure enough, it captivated the kiddos anew. They really got into it this time, and I love watching Eric and Katie communicate to each other. They fashioned an ambulance from a wagon, and we used spare pieces of muslin from my blanket-making to make soft casts for the dogs that came through. We talked about different symptoms and stories about why the doggies needed care and what the treatment should be. Very fun for me, too!

We also signed Katie up for two months of a soccer skills class in the fall. I loved soccer growing up and have so many good memories of playing recreationally on city teams. The class is formatted with games and drills, and I think she will really enjoy it. We’ve also committed both kiddos to a gymnastics class that starts in August. We took a break from some of the classes offered this year, primarily because I haven’t known what to do with Eric during that time…but now he is old enough to start participating and, in the case of the soccer class, we can run around and play at the park while she attends her practice.

Tomorrow my friend Lauren and I are co-teaching our children with a lesson plan we designed this weekend. YAY! YAY! YAY! This is our first co-teaching experience together, and I think it will be so invigorating! With four youngsters, it is bound to get wild at points, but we’ve got a great science lab on “sinking or floating” that will be largely hands-on. Can two high school teachers wrangle four kiddos age four and under? Stay tuned!

 

Six years ago today, Bill and I got married at Temecula Under the Oaks up in De Luz, surrounded by family and friends. He is my kindred, my best friend, the father of my children, and the one person I would marry again and again.

We’ve celebrated our anniversary by returning to our honeymoon bed and breakfast in Idyllwild, and we’ve also celebrated with special dinners and dates—but this year we decided to make it a true family celebration and to take ourselves and our kiddos on a “wedding tour” or sorts. We drove all the way out to our old house where we were first married, and we all played at the park that Katie and I went to almost daily when she was younger than Eric is now. Then we drove out to De Luz, though we did not enter the Temecula Under the Oaks property. We finished it off with some In-N-Out for lunch (in memory of hiring the In-N-Out truck for our wedding), and then played in the backyard.

Running to the swings at the park

I help Eric on the slide

This used to look like such a big slide relative to Katie! Now she is big!

Pure joy

Pushing both kiddos on the swings… Katie and I reminisced about the special song we made up together on those swings.

Katie managed to take this picture of Bill and me on the iPhone—-not bad!

When we got home, we ate our lunch and then all played horse shoes. We love the classics!

Katie and Daddy playing horse shoes

Eric plays some horse shoes

We played with sidewalk chalk…and refilled our bird feeders…and hung up our wind chime…

 

We turned on the patio misters and attached our hose to the caterpillar water sprayer thingy we have. Totally feels like summer.

So it was a beautiful anniversary day!

I have to say overall, though, this weekend has been a mixture of emotions. Yesterday felt much more somber, as I thought about Marguerite and her family and how it has been five years to the day that her younger brother Braden died of cancer. Her sorrow was in my heart and mind all day, particularly so as I watched the brother and sister relationship of my children. As we go through life with our friends-like-family, we realize that their significant days become our significant days, as well. The longer we journey beside one another, the more mixed our lives become. I do not think of my anniversary weekend without thinking now about what this weekend means to Marguerite. He would have just turned 30 years old.

So we hold all emotions at once, turn them over in our mind, and think about what it means to celebrate life, and to celebrate the life of someone who is gone.

 

“There’s nothing—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.”

~Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

To bide my time while I compile lessons and give order to the United States/Tall Tale/Road Trip unit I am planning for June, the kiddos and I are going through a series of mini lessons. There really is no particular rhyme or reason to what topics I am picking (I know, tsk tsk), but I am trying to focus on summery or nature topics, anything that will allow me versatility among disciplines and that is easy to differentiate.

Today’s topic: B is for Boat. Most of my printables (and even the idea for the craft) were from Enchanted Learning, and I have to say how thankful I am that our ES gave me RSCS’s subscription login now, instead of having me wait until school starts. I also want to encourage anyone thinking about purchasing a membership to Enchanted Learning to do so. I had thought and thought about it for the past couple of years, as link after link kept sending me to the site, but I was trying to wait it out until at least Katie’s official K year. I actually had no idea that River Springs Charter purchased a group subscription, and that was a GREAT surprise. Knowing what I know now about the site, it would have been totally worth it to us to have purchased a membership for this past preschool year. Most of the material is K and up, but there is much we could have used.

Both kiddos started out with a rebus poem about boats, glued into their journals. Then Eric colored a “Bb” while Katie did a fill-in-the-missing-letters phonic boat-themed worksheet. Both of them (well, mainly Katie, colored a picture of a mother and child in a boat based on a work of Mary Cassatt’s, which Katie knows well).

The best work from Katie and Eric today:

Katie did a color-by-adding boat themed addition worksheet. Truthfully, this took a loooong time. There were many sums, and we talked about shortcuts…but being right after lunch (we saved this for Eric’s nap time), she was more tired by then and I did need to redirect her attention a few times. She did complete it all, though. Math and Katie get along well. In order to help her take a few shortcuts, I talked to her for the first time today about the commutative property of addition. Strange as it may be, since it is fundamental to addition, I have never brought this up before now, partly out of waiting to see if she discovered it.  Still, I gave her the hint to use the work she had already done on problems like 4+3 to solve problems like 3+4 without having to use her counters. She started catching on, and the latter half of the sheet went a bit faster.

And I was proud of Eric for his work on this worksheet, especially in his ability to follow directions. He caught on that every vessel or boat-part was a different color, and he really focused on doing this. It is so sweet to see how proud he is to be sitting with Sister in their little school room at their table. He wants to please—I can see it in the way he smiles when he is praised. A few more months of training him to have school with us, and hopefully we’ll be in a smooth place come September.

After our morning school session and dance party, we got dressed, tidied up the play room upstairs (finally!), and then came down for our science/craft: making boats! We used two Greek yogurt container lids from breakfast this morning, Play Doh, construction paper, and straws. Easy, easy…and they both could do it. They spent time decorating their triangle sails. It was an opportunity, too, to talk about buoyancy.

Sister and Brother are ready with their homemade boats.

We filled up the water table and tested them out. Eric’s capsized. I envisioned a whole set of tests to conduct with our boats, but by the time we got to this point, everyone was starting to get hungry for lunch.

Sister pushed Eric on his bike while I got lunch ready

My babies

And, a true surprise and treat this afternoon: a postcard all the way from Thailand! Our cousins have been abroad for a few months and are coming home soon. It was great fun to read the postcard (and learn a new Thai word!) and look at the postage and the pictures. Thanks, J, F, V, and O!

 

When the printer starts eating paper and the bathtub overflows into the entire bathroom, it is time to keep smiling, have a sense of humor, and count our blessings for the little moments in life.

(Bill fixed the printer, by the way).

After a few busy days, we decided to slow it all down today and just enjoy some spontaneity.

We made morning glory muffins for breakfast:

Katie found these neat-o cupcake/muffin cups shaped like flowers when we were at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago. With all of the birthdays/Father’s Day/Midsummer’s Eve and an event-packed June, I figured we would use them at some point. A little whimsy and beauty are important in life, I believe. We decided to use them today for our morning glory muffins (muffins with shredded carrots, coconut, golden raisins, and apple). The kiddos both gobbled their muffins and had fun peeling the petals of the wrapper.

We put on paint clothes and painted sections of bamboo to make a wind chime (great little kit from the craft store). We talked about feeling the breeze as we painted and meditated on everything for which we are thankful. We talked about feeling our negative thoughts leave us on the wind and how peaceful it is to paint and create.

While Eric napped, Katie and I took between 10-15 minutes to convert one of my mom’s old tops into a new summer shift for Katie. It was really only a matter of measuring and redoing a couple of seams.

New, free, upcycled dress? Nice and cool for summer and for our road trip. Also, for those who stopped by our blog yesterday, note the shoes. These little beauties are pretty special to her right now!

 

We really enjoyed our differentiated Emily Dickinson lesson today, but first things first. I mean, a girl has to celebrate her new shoes, right?

After our morning school session, the kiddos and I headed to Payless to buy Katie some  new sneakers. She chose purple Airwalks—very sturdy, very cute, great price. They will come in handy for the blueberry patch, sandy parks, and various excursions we’re planning for our road trip (Meteor Crater–YES!).

But before the Airwalks, it was shoe love at first sight for this girl:

Katie saw these golden, bejeweled wedge sandals and fell head over, uh, heels with them instantly. She has never picked out her own shoes entirely on her before, not without suggestions or having to choose among those pre-approved by Mommy. Before I knew what she was even doing, she had them out of the box, one of her white sandals off, and was putting one of these on. She looked both cute and beautiful in them, and I saw how independent and big she felt. Although I had only planned to buy the sneakers, I agreed that we would get them for her since she has been working so hard in school this year and has done every assignment I’ve asked of her. (See how I shamelessly play that angle?)

Oh boy, was she excited. She had those shoes on all afternoon, and even wanted to put them back on with her jammies. Major love going on right here.

I swore, back in the day of reading about 4-year-old Suri in people magazine, that I would never let my daughter wear a shoe with any kind of true heel until she was much, much older. Shows what I know!

Anyway, we started the morning with a journal session and circle time. I liked coaching this assignment, because it truly was differentiated. The big puzzle for me lately is how to involve Eric (21.5 months old) in our homeschooling. I fully intend to school him alongside Katie next year. When she does her K work, I will either change it to be level-appropriate for him or find him something else to do.

Today we read a poem by Emily Dickinson, one I love dearly:

If I can stop one heart from breaking, 

I shall not live in vain; 

If I can ease one life the aching, 

Or cool one pain, 

Or help one fainting robin unto his nest again, 

I shall not live in vain. 

We read the poem, discussed it, and both kiddos colored robins (printed off from an image I found after searching Google images).

Then while Katie and I talked about the poem more in depth and she gave me her reader-response, Eric colored the letter “Rr.” She then did a reading-matching activity; I used the same sheet (from Enchanted Learning) for Eric, but he did not do the matching of the pictures to the words—instead, we cut out all the “r” pictures and he glued them around his “Rr.”

Katie’s literary response and analysis delighted me:

“It makes me think of a tree swaying in the wind. She wants us to understand: don’t be bad to somebody. When somebody’s heart breaks, you have to help them. She wants us to help others, play with others, be with others, everything. I loved the poem.”

We also worked on right and left worksheets today, and those were fun! She mostly knows right and left, but these really solidified it. Our ES Stephanie e-mailed me with access/subscriptions purchased by River Springs to several online resources for printables and multi-media. I spent several joyful, nerdytastic hours pouring over as much as I could. So many great printables and lessons to use in prep for our road trip! It is sooooooo addicting to lesson plan and to arrange pieces together. I love it. Teaching is my passion.

What else have we been up to? We went blueberry picking again yesterday. I love this time of year… Katie wore her new dress we made.

After nap time, we went outside and had orange popsicles, just made from freshly squeezed oranges someone gave to us. A good afternoon, pre-dinner treat.

My babies

And Eric helped Boppa with the sprinklers

We had a beautiful weekend, too, catching up with dear friends Gail, Megan, and Desi over lunch at the Cheesecake Factory with Nana and Mrs. Shelly. Gail and Desi were my mom’s friends and neighbors growing up; Megan is Gail’s eldest daughter. I loved meeting Megan: what a down-to-earth, intelligent, and kind person. The time went much too quickly, as always… Definitely need the Star Trek transporter. But there is a good chance that we will pass through their home state and home on our way home from our road trip.

Otherwise, my only other “news” of today is that we attempted quinoa for the first time this evening. Yes, I am late to the party with respect to quinoa. I had been hesitating because I wasn’t sure I’d know what to do with it, but I decided to take the plunge. Even plain, I find it delicious! I decided to work from instinct and just added some ingredients we had on hand: toasted pine nuts, olive oil, golden raisins, Romano cheese, and salt. Eric gobbled it up. At one point he said, “More, more!” Katie picked at parts of it. I could barely stop eating it. I had a big bowl of it with some homemade kale chips (another night, another batch of kale chips—seriously obsessed with them). For the kiddos, I added a turkey hotdog because, I mean, quinoa and kale chips? Kiddos have to have something to anchor that…well, at least for now. 😉

Tomorrow we’re having an at-home day, and maybe we’ll do some painting… We haven’t had a good painting project in awhile. I also want to make some more imm jaddara—and with some of the Valley Center lemons, a lemon and rosemary and Romano focaccia.

 

My great-grandparents, Orange County folk, bought their first piece of Valley Center land in the 1960s. Several purchases later, they owned three separate pieces: one they sold off early, a commercial parcel that finally sold this year after decades of issue with a sewer, and  a third stretch of sixteen acres that became not only an avocado and fruit grove but also the heart of our Matics-Lambert-Horne family.

It is the place of my youth and even early adulthood where I could run wild and free with my cousins and my aunts and uncles, my parents, and my Grandpa Don. We had huge family slumber parties, ghost stories on Grandpa’s rock, New Year’s Eve celebrations, craft projects that are everywhere around the main pad, and family history spanning generations all packed into a mobile home. My dad built an awesome treehouse one summer. A garden burst with vegetables and warm strawberries—which Grandpa Don always loved over vanilla Haagen Dazs. One summer during college I went out nearly every week with Dad to visit my grandpa, who split his time between Balboa Island and Valley Center in those days. That was the summer before he had his stroke. We talked for hours on the trailer porch, wondered about the white flies on the hibiscus, made lemonade, cooled off in the misters my dad had put up, and sometimes just sat in silence. I still remember right where we both were sitting that summer when he said, “Yessir, it’s a big whole world out there and you never stop learning.” Though we had vastly different life experiences and though we were generations apart, we shared a core philosophy. This was a man who loved to see what would happen next, someone who struck up a conversation with a stranger on the Caltrain when he visited me at Stanford, someone who walked all over San Francisco with me in his best shoes, jumped onto a trolley, and heartily enjoyed the honey prawns in Chinatown.

We never stop learning.

Today I learned one thing for sure:

When time lays waste to what we have cherished most for its beauty, we have to be willing to see that beauty never really dies—it just changes forms. If we can watch that beauty evolve and stand by it, then it is never really lost, nor can it ever be lost.

In recent years, my dad and his three siblings have had to make difficult decisions about all the MLH properties. A combination of inheritance taxes, increase in water prices, and the avocado grove not producing enough anymore (water issues) to offset costs resulted in the decision to turn off water to most of the land…and to let Mother Nature take it back for awhile. For a grove that used to be highly profitable, this was hard.

I had not seen, until today, what the grove looked like. I haven’t been there for over a year.

But it was the land itself that called to me. The reddish coppery earth, the old honeysuckle, the mountain air. Katie has been a few times, but Eric only once when he was four months old. He needed to run on it like his big sister, and like their mother and grandfather, and great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather. I want my children to have memories of this land that is so much a part of all of us. A five generation legacy of deep air and dust and blue jays and hawks and rocks that sparkle in the light.

So what is beautiful now? My children playing on the land, for one. Beyond that, I saw beauty in all of the weeds—must be hundreds of species of living things out there, plant and animal—that have sprung up. I saw beauty in the life cycle. I saw beauty in knowing what California must have looked like before being settled. Some of the weeds had the most beautiful flowers, all so different. It was glory, in a different form. Somehow, some of our trees were still alive. One of the apple trees was blossoming. I picked several lemons. The pomegranate flowered. And I’ll be darned that the strawberry plants are still producing this year, when in all reality they should not be.

We turned on the old misters and sat on the porch, and I saw beauty in remembering all the times I had been there at each season of my life, in feeling this great thread through time that connected me tangibly to everything—and everyone—that had gone before. It’s all one time; it is all right now. Grandpa Don passed four years ago this month, but part of him is still here—we just have to see through the illusion of linear time.

Even though beauty changes forms, it is never gone. I don’t think beauty/love (aren’t they the same?) ever dies. We were made with eyes to see this, even when we are afraid to test those eyes. Looking at something we have loved and being asked to accept its changes is never easy.

Me, blowing bubbles on the porch…maybe 1982?

Katie on the porch today

My mom and me, when I was four-years-old, Katie’s current age. We are sitting on “Sarah’s rock,” my favorite rock in the whole place. I used to play doctor with it and give it hugs. It was eventually “moved” when we made the fuyu grove…

Katie collecting rocks to take home

Around the hearth with my brother and cousins, 2004ish (I know I was teaching by the time this was taken, I’m fairly sure)

Sister and brother, 5th gen

Eric worked at raking today. He wore his Hawaiian shirt, which was pretty much what my dad and grandpa used to do: wear their Hawaiian shirts and work the grove.

Working with Boppa… there may be weeds, but it is still magic

When I snapped this pic…

…I thought of this one. It was taken in about the same location.

Katie, at 15 months old, helping Boppa hunt for avos.

Katie (15 months) and Boppa sitting on Grandpa’s Rock. Grandpa Don used to take his mug of coffee out to Grandpa’s Rock and watch the sunrise on the mornings he was there. It made a good ghost story telling rock, too.

Boppa and Eric on Grandpa’s Rock.

Three generations on Grandpa’s Rock

Katie and Kd on Grandpa’s Rock.

Mommy and 15-month-old Baby Kate on Grandpa’s Rock, 2008.

Cousin Kd came out to play with us and to have lunch with us. Kd hadn’t been to the land for some time, either. I loved that she was here today and that we could see it together. I often refer to us as “The First and The Last” especially when we are together in a pair—we are the first born of Grandpa’s grandchildren (me) and his last born (her). We have such a special bond between the two of us for so many reasons, and one is that we bookend all the good people (our cousins) who came between us.

Oh, and we did encounter a baby rattlesnake today. Yeah. Was it newly dead or just playing dead? Boppa raked it out… It looked dead and didn’t writhe one bit, but to be sure, he did decapitate it. Then Eric and I touched it. Katie (probably wisely) wouldn’t go anywhere near it…except to pose here with it. I swear it is there on the ground, but it really was tiny.

Boppa was explaining the grove to Eric under the misters, and I caught a rainbow while taking this pic. See it? A symbol of hope for new life… Beauty changes forms, but it continues.

Eric explored Grandpa Don’s favorite chair. So many memories of him sitting there in that chair…Even after his stroke, he always joined us for New Year’s Eve and Day. I wish my children could know him.

I am thankful for this day of building our family history for my children and being able to give them a place in something greater than just themselves, but to which their very existence contributes. Beauty changes…but it lives on.

What a busy and fulfilling day! Our main event of the day was to meet with Mrs. G, our homeschool liaison from River Springs Charter School. She came over after lunchtime, and seriously, we already love, love, LOVE her. She is so full of sparkle and energy, and so incredibly efficient yet so attentive. Katie clicked with her right away, and they made little notes to each other. When I went upstairs to help Eric with something, I could hear the two of them chatting. I love Mrs. G’s voice and the way she speaks to my daughter. She is going to be such an important person in our lives in this coming year. She is such a great fit for us!

Each time I interact with anyone from River Springs, the more excited I become. Their resources are phenomenal, and their incorporation of technology must be a plus for their WASC report—-it is a amazing! I feel incredibly thankful that this structure will be supporting my efforts next year, and I can’t wait to get to know as many people—staff and parents—as possible.

Katie signed her first contract today, too! We had to sign the enrollment forms, and there was a spot for the student signature. Katie confidently wrote her name “Katie”  after Mrs. G explained what she was signing (that mommy would be her teacher and that Katie and Mommy would try their best) and I was so proud of her. I wished I’d had my camera: my little girl seemed so grown up at that moment!

As a teacher, too, I have to say that I am beyond thrilled to be working with my colleagues again. I am even looking forward to the four inservice days required of new parents. The energy that comes from two or more teachers who are planning and learning together is pretty invigorating.

Right now, Bill and I are finalizing our curriculum choices. There are options for math and language arts in the boxed set. You know I cannot wait to get my hands on it! We’ll have it in August, though. Still, I was so pleased to see that we have already read so much of the literature, with a couple of new pieces. This Kindergarten year is going to be FUN!

I will say that I am glad we’ve been homeschooling this year and that we’re solidly into K work already. I think our experience is going to help us transition smoothly. We are planning to keep learning through the summer, so we’ll have three more months of practice and skill-building before we start officially. Doesn’t get better for us than that!

We did fit in some schoolwork this morning:

Katie and Eric worked at their little table on a Cookie Monster themed book for emergent readers, which also practiced counting 1-4. Review in some respects for Katie, but it was an opportunity to practice some new words (“cookie”) and some sight words for Katie. Both the kiddos colored the book, found here on Making Learning Fun. Then they cut the book where appropriate, and I stapled the pages together for them.

Our Cookie Monster puppet (yes, old-school from my childhood) came out to play. I often think of Katie being so much older than Eric, but both of them were very much into this, laughing and interacting with Cookie Monster. He coached them on their work, listened to Katie read, practiced counting, and resorted to low humor with Eric while making a huge deal of a wooden letter “C” (CM would pretend to eat it and then regurgitate it on the floor—my son was in hysterics. No, I am not above this, or indeed, anything that will help my children learn and remember).

Eric wanted kisses from Cookie Monster. Amazing how this lesson changed for them as soon as Cookie Monster became their teacher for a little while. Silly play makes for good learning, right? We’ve been loving the muppets/Sesame Street monsters lately.

We listened several times to “C is for Cookie” and we also sang it. Then we had circle time and free play (latching board, lacing beads, felt board, spelling puzzles). It was low-key this morning, actually, as far as a planned lesson goes.

Then I went to the restroom. Now, usually, when I go to the bathroom it’s a full on party in there. Everyone comes, or bangs on the door. Not today. Today I went about my business and suddenly heard it: the loud silence of kiddos who are being totally quiet. Parents, you know what I mean. It is the “noise” kiddos make when there is no noise. Louder than a bell or their shrillest scream. It is the absolute silence that means we’re up to something and we don’t want you to know.

Coming out of the bathroom, I found them right away, hiding under the dining room table. I thought maybe they were just going to play hide n seek. But when they were still quiet after I teased, “I’m going to find you!” I checked again. Sure enough, between the two of them were spread ALL the remaining orange rolls from breakfast, and they were nibbling the icing tops off each one.

It looks like it was just Katie in the above picture, but Eric was right beside her—I just couldn’t get him in the frame from that angle.

Katie admitted that they were hiding because they thought they’d be in trouble. She said that at first, they were planning to do this when it was nighttime with Daddy and I was getting my shower and wouldn’t catch them. I actually just laughed and laughed. Oh, those two will be thick as thieves some day. Part of me is glad they do this: I want them to be more bonded to one another than they are to me. It will serve them well. Besides, they weren’t hurting anything, you know?

Have a good night everyone!